How to Make Evaporated Milk at Home 

You're all set to make a delicious cake when you realize you're missing a key ingredient- evaporated milk. You feel frustrated, wondering if you have to go back to the grocery store, questioning- what is evaporated milk anyway?! Why are there so many kinds of milk? Condensed milk, almond milk, soy milk,  powdered milk, buttermilk, coconut milk, the list goes on and on. If you ever find yourself in this situation, fear not! You can learn how to make evaporated milk at home with just one ingredient- milk.

Evaporated Milk Substitutions You Already Have on Hand

Shelves of chocolate milk powder for sale at La Colonia Supermarket.

(Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A can of evaporated milk is a central ingredient in baking, as it has the ability to add a creamy taste without the cream. Evaporated milk is regular milk with the water taken out and is in many recipes, from pumpkin pie to fudge to even mashed potatoes. Shelf-stable, the canned milk can add caramelized flavor to dishes.  It can also be used as a substitute for regular milk or even heavy cream, so learning to make homemade evaporated milk is a useful skill for all of your milk-related needs.

Using Evaporated Milk as a Substitute

When using evaporated milk as a replacement for regular milk, you should use an equal amount of water and evaporated milk. So if the recipe calls for 1 cup of milk, you'd use a 1/2 cup of evaporated milk and a 1/2 cup of water. As for heavy cream, you'd use the same amount of evaporated milk to replace heavy cream in a recipe. So, if the recipe (say for ice cream) calls for 1 cup of heavy cream, you'd use 1 cup of evaporated milk. However,  it should only be used in place of heavy whipping cream if the cream is a liquid ingredient in the recipe that won't be whipped, since evaporated milk doesn't whip well.

Substituting for Evaporated Milk

On the other hand, you can also use other milk as a substitute for evaporated milk, so there are multiple avenues to take if you find yourself in need of this key ingredient. Some common evaporated milk substitutes are half and half, powdered milk, heavy cream, dairy-free nut milk, and regular milk. However, some of these replacements will take some tinkering. For example, milk powder will need to be rehydrated by adding water.

If you plan to use regular milk or non-dairy milk, you'll need to remove some of the water to make them into evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is exactly what it sounds like; milk that has been cooked until much of it has evaporated due to the heat. Consequently, homemade evaporated milk is very simple for home cooks to make step by step.

How to Make Evaporated Milk

To make DIY evaporated milk, you'll need full-fat fresh milk (like whole milk) and a heavy non-stick saucepan. Bring the milk to a simmer on medium heat, and then turn it down to medium-low for a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the milk has lost about half of its water content.

If you start with 3 1/4 cups of milk, you should end up with about 1 1/4 cups of evaporated milk. Once it has been reduced and is a creamy color, use a sieve to remove a top layer of skin. Let it cool fully before use.

The shelf life of evaporated milk is about five days, so you should only make your own evaporated milk if you have a recipe in mind. Like all dairy products, evaporated milk is a great source of calcium, so you can bake a yummy cake while also strengthening your bones. Using this simple method and a bit of milk, you can have evaporated milk on hand whenever you need it!

READ MORE: Why Can't We Buy Raw Milk?

Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.